Barbara Buhler Lynes Resigns as O’Keeffe Museum Curator in Santa Fe

Barbara Buhler Lynes, who became curator of the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum when it opened in 1999 1997, resigned that post today, effective immediately, and also relinquished her title and position as Emily Fisher Landau director of the Museum’s O’Keeffe Research Center.

Barbara Buhler Lynes

Lynes has been recognized as the world’s premier authority on Georgia O’Keeffe, about whom she co-authored the Georgia O’Keeffe: Catalogue Raisonne (1999), and wrote the critical work,  O’Keeffe: Stieglitz and the Critics, 1916-1929 (1989), which examined ways that O’Keeffe changed her painting after early critics insisted on reading depictions of female anatomy into her representations. It was Lynes’s co-authoring of the O’Keeffe Catalogue Raisonne, the complete documentation of O’Keeffe’s works, that cast Santa Fe into a bright national spotlight on its publication, when 28 watercolors known as Canyon Suite, which emerged out of Amarillo, Texas in 1987 the year after the artist’s death, were omitted from the catalogue. Six years prior to the catalogue’s publication, Santa Fe art dealer Gerald Peters had sold the suite to Kansas City businessman Crosby Kemper, who had built a museum for them. Omissions of work from a catalogue raisonne mean that the scholars charged with evaluating and deciding an artist’s lifetime oeuvre do not believe the work is authentic.

More recently, beginning in 2007, the O’Keeffe Museum under Lynes’s curatorial leadership had led an unsuccessful charge to attempt to prevent Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., from selling an effective time-share in a collection of 101 artworks by Alfred Stieglitz and O’Keeffe and others, which O’Keeffe had gifted to Fisk after Stieglitz’s death, to the Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. Among the collection that Fisk in late April won final permission from the Tennessee Supreme Court to share with Crystal Bridges, is O’Keeffe’s seminal 1927 painting, Radiator Building: Night.

In her tenure at the O’Keeffe Museum, Lynes was charged with one of the first and still, only US museum dedicated solely to a single woman artist’s work. (Clyfford Still Museum in Denver opened late last year.) The hagiographic approach resulted in a mission that entailed showing works by O’Keeffe from the Museum’s own and other collections – which, at the Museum’s founding, were in large part established through gifts by donor Anne Marion, who remains founder and chairman of the board. The Museum has also exhibited O’Keeffe’s art alongside that of her contemporaries; and works of “Living Artists of Distinction,” of whom four living women artists have had solo exhibits at the Museum since 1999: Anne Truitt (2000); Sherrie Levine (2007); Susan Rothenberg (2010); and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (2012). A new national look at O’Keeffe occured in 2009, when the Whitney Museum in New York mounted O’Keeffe: Abstraction, a show which Whitney curator Barbara Haskell, along with Lynes, Bruce Robertson of UC Santa Barbara and Elizabeth Hutton Turner of the University of Virginia and Phillips collection, collaborated upon.

Prior to joining the O’Keeffe, Lynes was art history professor at the Maryland Institute, College of Art, and at Montgomery College, Dartmouth College, and Vanderbilt University.



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  1. Katherine says:

    This is a great loss for the O’Keeffe Museum. I don’t quite understand your comment regarding the Clyfford Still museum as there are several museums dedicated to the work of one American male artist, ie: Walter Inglis Anderson in Ocean Springs, MS and Charles E. Burchfield in New York, for example.

    • Ellen Berkovitch says:

      We cover the west; my example in the Clyfford Still Museum never said or suggested he was the only male artist to enjoy a museum solely for his work, but the only one here in the Rocky Mountain West.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’ve had to deal with the O’Keeffe estate, the museum, matters pertaining to Alfred Stieglitz, etc. They are IMPOSSIBLE. I can’t believe Lynes lasted so long.

    There are two words conspicuously missing from this article, and these two words are the key to what makes all O’Keeffe/Stieglitz matters so agonizing and impossible: “Juan” and “Hamilton.”

  3. Katy Crocker says:

    What seems impossible is filling Barbara Buhler Lynes’ shoes!

  4. The O’Keeffe Museum opened in 1997, not 1999 as stated in your article; I was author, not, as your article states, “co-author of the O’Keeffe catalogue raisonne”; it is inaccurate to imply that I was in “charge” of anything preventing Fisk University from sharing its Stieglitz Collection with Crystal Bridges Museum; the Whitney show took place in 2009, rather than in 1999, as your article states.

  5. Line 1: the O’Keeffe Museum opened in 1997, not 1999; line 5 paragraph 2; author, not co-author, 3rd line from bottom, paragraph 4, 2009, not 1999; last line, “prior to joining the O’Keeffe, add, was independent contractor for the National Gallery of Art, …


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